Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Running After the Joneses - the Comparative Paradigm Trap

Photo by Gareth Mackay

This has become all too common in today's day of social media and instant information: you hear someone talk about running their first marathon, and someone else, often a non-runner will say, "hey you gotta beat Oprah's / P. Diddy's time!"  For what it's worth, I do believe it's great to have goals and sub-goals to keep yourself motivated.  Oprah (for the record) ran 4:29:15 and P-Diddy ran 4:14:54. It was on record that Diddy, or Puffy Combs or Sean or whatever he is calling himself now also wanted to beat Oprah's time.

Keeping up with the Joneses, or in this case, running after the Joneses is a very dangerous game. It is an extension of life lived in the comparative paradigm. The chief problem with the comparative paradigm is that we almost always put ourselves in deficit. We always have LESS than the Joneses, we're always LESS fit than those we're aspiring to be like and/or LESS fast or LESS tough.

I'm not suggesting that having idols, role models or heroes is unhealthy. But rather, when your goals (and/or dreams) are based around being "as good as someone else" or in some cases "better than someone else" it starts first with the premise that you are PRESENTLY LESS ____*blank____ (*insert your less word here: talented, genetically predisposed, wealthy, fast, tough, etc.).  Being less than someone else causes a whole other issue too, as it has us focusing on being (or beating) THEM and not just being the best version of us/me that we/I can be. (yeah, the English there is hard to follow, but give it one more read for good measure.)  When you are not focused on being the best YOU that you can be, you tune out your own body/mind's present in-the-moment needs.  It all becomes about being them, or being better than them.

Take this one step further... you've grown a little bored of marathoning.  Now you've moved onto Ironman distance triathalons OR ultra-distance mountain races.  You see these ultra-crazy people around you, you read the articles in magazines and in blogs, you start to want to train/race like those people.  Yet you're only getting a small snapshot of their life. In many cases, you don't know their genetic predisposition to speed/distance, nor their history and experience (in some cases these people have run their whole lives while we may only have a few months or a few years under the soles of our shoes) and trying to emulate something before you're really ready can lead to sickness, injury and setbacks (and these setbacks can at times have huge emotional consequences).

I invite you to take a moment to evaluate your life and your present goals and dreams. Are they grounded in being the best version of you, yet? Or are they smelling a little like they were birthed in the comparative paradigm (doing something because someone else did it)?  If you discover (like I have, from time to time) that you're putting yourself at the low end of the totem pole, break that cycle. Reassess.  Recreate from a baseline of loving yourself and being a little bit fuller, more expressed and healthier version of you than you've been recently.  Otherwise, the fear of being inadequate just continues to recreate itself, and like a dog chasing it's tail, you'll never catch up with the imaginary ghosts you've created in your mind.

Here's a little mantra I plan to utilize more often...

Today, I shall strive to be a little bit better than yesterday. Mentally tougher. Happier. More generous. Not more-so than anyone else, just more than myself previously.

But I ain't gonna lie, you do gotta go beat Oprah's time.
On top of the world, being the best ME I can possibly be...

Way of the Trail Runner VIDEO (see point 5 or 6) - "thou shalt not envy another runner"


Kiley said...

"Today, I shall strive to be a little bit better than yesterday. Mentally tougher. Happier. More generous. Not more-so than anyone else, just more than myself previously."

I used this today to get out of a funk and get out the door and get the ball rolling in a positive direction. Thanks.

Jimmy Dean Freeman said...

Thatta boy, Kiley! Now go out and BE "Coach Kiley" and INSPIRE your people! You are a great human and a GREAT coach!

la maratonista (AKA Jenni) said...

I JUST had this conversation with one of my runners last night - he's feeling down because he's the slowest person at our track workouts, but he's so focused on being slower than others that he doesn't see how much he has improved!

So I copied this post and sent it to him. Thank you!